he Church of Scientology International conducts a special human rights educational programme for young people under the banner of Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI). Founded in 2001, YHRI’s purpose is to teach children about human rights, so they become advocates for tolerance and peace. It publishes a child-friendly text, What Are Human Rights? containing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and available in 19 languages.
The Public Affairs and Human Rights Office and YHRI organise regular seminars for children, using What Are Human Rights? to impart an understanding of their rights and those of others. For example, to mark Universal Children’s Day on
20 November 2004, the Office hosted an event in which young representatives discussed the state of human rights in their countries and how to improve them.
The European Office is the main coordinator of YHRI activities throughout Europe and also contributes to international events, such as the August 2004 Youth for Human Rights International summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York. There, delegates from 22 countries and government officials from 19 nations formulated plans to make human rights a reality for their people.
It is rare to see Palestinian and Israeli representatives share the same podium, let alone shake hands. Not so at the YHRI summit, where Israeli Rene Wasserman and Palestinian Zeina Hamad embraced in friendship and sent a message to adults back home: “With an understanding of human rights, Middle-Eastern youth can change the course of history”.
HUMAN RIGHTS FOR AFRICAN YOUTH
In January 2005, the European Office organised a human rights seminar for the president and executives of the Association to Combat Child Labour in Niger. Focusing on making human rights a reality in a country where more than 75% of the population is illiterate, the seminar opened the door for the introduction of effective literacy and education tools for the people of the Niger. The humanitarian aid organisation has since begun to develop plans for training hundreds of educators who will, in turn, train other educators and students in human rights principles.
In May 2005, executives of the Research and Action Group for Solidarity and Peace participated in another human rights seminar. As a result, they are now making arrangements to export what they learned to bring human rights education to NGO workers and youth in the republic of Benin.
The Alpha Childcare Community Development Organisation (ACCDO), which supports orphans and vulnerable children, is embarking on a pilot project in which 120 schools will use What Are Human Rights? to bring awareness of these principles to the youth of Uganda.